12:05:12 local time CAMBODIA
* Overtime strike set to begin:
Labour union leaders expect employees from at least 100 garment factories around the country to refuse overtime work this week, as workers ease their way into a new approach to strikes.
A total of 18 unions and union confederations – eight in the garment sector and another 10 representing workers in other industries – are encouraging workers to refuse overtime in the Kingdom’s garment factories, where employees typically work at least two to four hours longer than their regular eight-hour shifts each day, said Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU).
“People, now they plan to implement our strategy,” Thorn said in an interview.
Unlike the last large-scale garment worker strike, which turned deadly in January, the renewed strike will not include demonstrations, Thorn said.
* Unions Set to Begin First Phase of Nationwide Strike:
A coalition of 18 labor unions and associations is today set to begin the first phase of a nationwide labor strike in the garment sector by calling on workers in about 100 factories to boycott working overtime, according to union leaders.
Despite efforts by the government to stifle the strike, the union leaders, who claim to represent more than 300,000 workers in the garment sector, said they will continue distributing leaflets informing workers about the threatened strike in the middle of March.
“We expect that about 100 factories will join the strike tomorrow by not working overtime while we are in the process of distributing [leaflets],” said Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union.
Mr. Thorn said that although local authorities have attempted to prevent the distribution of leaflets outside some factories, the message was still getting out.
“Although we have encountered some problems and been interrupted by authorities while distributing the leaflets, they have been successfully delivered,” he said. “Some [workers] already got our message through Facebook, the radio and other media.”
* Unions begin campaign to call on workers to boycott working overtime:
Labour unions and associations on Monday begin their first phase of nationwide strike by asking workers to boycott their working overtime as part of campaign to seek the release of 21 detained protesters and to demand the minimum wage of USD160 per month.
Ath Thon, President of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, said that a collation of 18 unions and association appealed to workers not to work over time from today, and will urge workers not to work on March 12.
13:05:12 local time INDONESIA
* Better Work Indonesia’s 3rd Compliance Synthesis Report:
Better Work Indonesia’s 3rd Compliance Synthesis Report which published in year 2013 stated that most garment factories continue to be non-compliant with respect to occupational safety and health, with all factories not being fully prepared for an emergency.
Fire safety in garment industry has become an important issues that need to be thoroughly address because it can save money and lives.
The best fire safety practices prevent fires by reducing the risk of fire.
Training workers is a very cost effective way to improve fire safety, because it teaches workers how to prevent fires from starting and what to do in case of an emergency.
11:05:12 local time BANGLADESH
* Old Dhaka shoe factory fire burns 4:
Four workers of a shoe factory suffered burn injuries when a fire broke out at the factory in Kayettuli area of old part of Dhaka city on Sunday night.
The injured were identified as M Sharif, Aminur Rahman, 24, Aminul Islam, 20, and Abdur Rahim.
They are undergoing treatment at the burn unit of Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
Fire service officials said the fire originated from a matchstick around 9:45 pm, leaving the four injured.
On information, a fire fighting unit rushed to the spot.
However, locals doused the fire earlier.
to read. & read more. & read more.
* Garment units reel from safety threats:
Participants in safety expo stress education, awareness
Most garment factories have structural flaws due to poor implementation of laws, a global alliance of retailers said yesterday.
Around 74 percent of the garment factories were established before the enforcement of the Bangladesh National Building Code, said Mesbah Rabin, managing director of Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, a platform of 26 North American clothing retailers.
“Most factories do not have any drawing design, soil test reports, electrical line outlines. We, therefore, are facing challenges in inspecting factories,” he said yesterday at the inauguration of an exposition on factory safety, organised by Alliance and Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, with support from Accord on Fire and Building Safety, a forum of 150 retailers, mostly European.
Bangladesh has immense potential for RMG exports, but the sector has to go through a transformation to grab the opportunity, said Brad Loewen, chief safety inspector of the Accord.
He stressed the need for proper education on building and fire safety, for both workers and owners.
* Is RMG industry ready for ‘transformation’? :
The country’s apparel industry, undoubtedly, is at a crossroads. All stakeholders are unanimous that the industry needs a transformation, at the earliest, in terms of workplace safety, workers’ rights and technological upgradation not only to retain its current ranking as the second largest exporter but also to reach the top slot.
The government policymakers are optimistic that the country could fetch nearly $50 billion a year from apparel exports within a decade or so provided it gets necessary support at home and also from international buyers. But without going through a well-crafted transformation, it is unlikely that the sector would ever meet such high expectation.
It does appear from the statements from the leaders of the apparel sector that they are at odds with the buyers’ platforms now engaged in ensuring compliance with workplace safety and workers’ rights issues in Bangladesh. One such issue relates to the relocation of apparel units housed in ‘shared’ buildings. The garment unit owners are also reluctant to comply with conditions and standards, set by the Western retailers and brands, which do not conform to the country’s laws and rules.
The owners as usual have sought the government intervention to resolve the problems they are facing with the international buyers on compliance issues. The national tripartite committee held a meeting in Dhaka last week ostensibly to bridge the gap between the buyers’ platforms-the Alliance and the Accord—and the local apparel makers.
* Sudden fear injures 30 Gazipur workers:
Authorities declares the closure of the factory for the day
At least 30 workers of Dignity Textile Limited have been injured while getting out of the factory in a hurry in Natun Bazar area of Sripur upazila on Sunday morning.
The injured were taken to Sripur upazila Health Complex.
Gazipur industrial police assistant sub-inspector Shariful Alam told the Dhaka Tribune, “The workers panicked after hearing shouts of a fellow worker and got injured while getting out of the factory in a hurry.”
Afroza Sharmin, duty doctor of Sripur upazila Health Complex, said workers got injured caused by sudden fear which is said in medical study to be mass hysteria.
Later, the authorities declared the closure of the factory for the day.
to read. & read more.
* Factory safety expo piques garment makers’ interests:
Full of passion and hand gestures, Mastaeem Billah Chowdhury was articulating the merits of the fire extinguishing system that his company is displaying at the International Trade Expo for Building and Fire Safety at Sonargaon Hotel.
“This is the most efficient and reliable solution out there,” said the UK-educated electrical engineer to the handful of visitors at his stall.
Chowdhury, who is the managing director of Re-Green Bangla Industries, assured the visitors, most of whom were garment factory owners, that the system would ensure continuity of operation after fire incidents.
The reason for the animated sales pitch was the good response from visitors at the two-day expo, jointly organised by the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety and Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
“Some people are keen to buy fire and safety products and some are not at all interested, saying that they don’t want to invest money for that,” said Chowdhury, whose stall was also displaying a light that can keep its service on for an hour even after the building is burnt down.
* Building, fire safety equipment import to be duty-free: Tofail :
Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed today said the government is working to make building and fire equipment import duty-free to promote safe working condition at Readymade Garment (RMG) factories.
“We will discuss the matter with organizations concerned to make the building and fire equipment import duty-free,” he told the inaugural function of the International Trade Expo for Building and Fire Safety at a city hotel.
The ALLIANCE and ACCORD in association with BGMEA are organizing the two-day international trade expo.
read more. & read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
* Govt hopes to fulfil GSP conditions by March:
Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed on Sunday expected to fulfil all the 16 conditions, set by the US administration, to get back the GSP (Generalised System of Preference) facilities for Bangladesh products in the US market by March next.
The US government suspended the trade facilities due to lapses in the country’s RMG sector, especially after the Rana Plaza collapse and the Tazreen fire incident, but it has badly affected many other sectors including the Plastic industry, said the minister.
The minister was addressing the concluding session of the 4-day International Plastic, Packaging and Printing Industries fair in the city’s Bangabandhu International Conference Centre.
* Agreement signed on social safety, women empowerment:
The government on Sunday signed two project documents with the UNDP under the title of ‘SPPS’ and ‘SWAPNO’ involving worth Tk 8.61 billion.
The Social Protection Policy Support (SPPS) programme will prove vital in rolling out the National Social Protection Strategy to be implemented at the cost of Tk564.1 million, a release said.
Government and the UNDP, DFID, and AusAID will jointly finance the cost of the project.
Secretary of economic relations division (ERD) of Finance Ministry, Mohammad Mejbahuddin said the programme will draw on the National Social Protection Strategy preparation, which will provide a functional entry point for effective changes in the wider social protection system via better governance and oversight of the system.
* Faulty construction blamed for building collapses:
The experts also underlined the need to follow the Bangladesh National Building Code (BNBC) strictly to make all establishments earthquake-resistant
Building experts yesterday blamed faulty or weak construction, negligence of the building code and lack of repairs for the collapse of many buildings in Bangladesh, including in the capital Dhaka, even without the influence of an earthquake or any other natural disaster.
Professional engineers and building experts made the observation while addressing a workshop, titled “Retrofitting of vulnerable buildings and quality construction of buildings for safer cities,” in the capital yesterday.
The experts also underlined the need to follow the Bangladesh National Building Code (BNBC) strictly to make all establishments earthquake-resistant, as such negligence have made many high-rise buildings in the capital vulnerable to natural disasters.
The daylong workshop was organised by a project, jointly arranged in cooperation with Public Works Department (PWD) with technical support from Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica), for capacity development on natural disaster resistant techniques of construction and retrofitting for public buildings (CNCRP).
During the workshop, which marked the third-year completion of the CNCRP project, engineers shared their work knowledge and experiences while preparing an inventory list of 3,000 public buildings, practicing various seismic assessment methods, and improving building construction quality.
Fumio Kaneko, team leader of Jica study team, used a slide presentation to inform the workshop that the collapsed multi storey buildings in and around Dhaka, such as Rana Plaza, Begunbari Building, Phoenix Garments, Spectrum Building, Shankhari Bazar Building, had mainly collapsed due to faulty and weak foundation structure.
THE RANA PLAZA BUILDING COLLAPSE
* Foundation donates Rana Plaza victims:
The Motorola Solutions Foundation donated $15,000 to the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (RCS) to support relief efforts in Dhaka which is recovering from the collapse of the Savar Building last year, says a press release.
During the rush-hour morning of April 24 last year, the eight-storey Rana Plaza collapsed in Savar. Considered one of the deadliest industrial accidents in modern history, the disaster had left thousands dead and injured. As recovery efforts continue, Motorola Solutions Foundation is extending its assistance through the RCS, the press release said.
Matthew Blakeley, director, Motorola Solutions Foundation said, “As lives and livelihood are being rebuilt, we at Motorola Solutions want to rally behind the survivors and families of victims in the Savar accident.”
* Rana Plaza -Time for brands to Pay Up!:
FOR RANA PLAZA SURVIVORS, COMPENSATION IS LONG OVERDUE.
Today, Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) alongside workers and trade unions in Bangladesh and around the world launch a major campaign calling on all clothing brands who source from Bangladesh to immediately pay into the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund, which is collecting voluntary donations on behalf of the Rana Plaza Arrangement, and is overseen by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
The Pay Up! campaign comes just two months before the first anniversary of the catastrophic collapse of Rana Plaza, which killed 1,138 people and injured over 2,000 more. The campaign aims to ensure that come April 24th the survivors and victims families are not still waiting for compensation.
CCC is calling on major international brands BENETTON, KIK and CHILDREN’S
PLACE, in particular, who all had orders at one of the five factories in Rana Plaza at the time of the collapse or in the recent past, to make significant contributions in order to ensure payments can begin.
US$40 MILLION is required to ensure all those injured and the families of those killed are fairly compensated for loss of income and medical expenses. The fund is open to all companies, donors and individuals who wish to express their solidarity and compassion.
To date clothing brands EL CORTE INGLES, MASCOT, MANGO, INDITEX and LOBLAW have all publicly committed to the Donor Trust Fund.
“Numerous reports over the past ten months have highlighted the ongoing plight of the victims of Rana Plaza and their families. We therefore welcome these initial contributions.” says Ineke Zeldenrust of the Clean Clothes Campaign. “Compensation efforts to date have been completely haphazard, unequal, unpredictable and non-transparent, and have left large groups of victims with nothing. The Arrangement has set up the entire operational structure, which will put an end to this unpredictability quickly and completely. All that is needed is for companies to pay up. The collapse of Rana Plaza is symptomatic of an industry wide problem, and we encourage the entire industry to make generous contributions.” adds Zeldenrust.
Nearly all the victims of the Rana Plaza collapse were garment workers who had been ordered back into the unsafe building by factory bosses.
Shila Begum a sewing operator in one of the factories who was trapped when the building collapsed described the decision to go in.
“No one wanted to enter the building that day … [but] I still went back in. If enough people hit you, you do what they say. You could see the tension in people’s eyes.” Shortly after arriving at her machine the electricity went off and the generator switched on “The floor gave way… my hand got stuck and I thought I would die.”
After being trapped for most of the day under the building Shila was eventually rescued, but her crush injuries were such that she had to have a hysterectomy, and her arm is in constant pain and she is unable to work.
The trauma of the day remains with her. “I don’t know if I will ever be able to step into a factory again.”
In Dhaka, garment workers and their unions will be creating a human chain, and holding a press conference demanding the early settlement of the compensation claims. Hameeda Hossein of SNF (the Bangladesh Worker’s Safety Forum) says “After the Rana building collapsed the whole world watched for weeks while the injured and dead were pulled out of the ruins. Now is the time for all of us to act and ensure US$40 million is donated before April 24th”.
The Rana Plaza Arrangement is a groundbreaking collaborative framework to
ensure that the losses of the survivors and victims can be paid.
The operational structure has been developed by the former Executive Head of the United Nations Compensation Commission, working with the Bangladesh Ministry of Labour and ILO experts. Some of the most credible labour- and civil society organisations will be involved in the claims processing and post-award services and counselling. Medical assessments will be undertaken by qualified local doctors at the Centre for Rehabilitation of the Paralysed (CRP). A team of independent local and international claims commissioners has been identified to determine the awards. The Germandevelopment agency GIZ has agreed to undertake the administrative costs of the operation.
Roy Ramesh Chandra, President of the United Federation of Garment Workers &
Secretary General of IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC) said “This is an unprecedented step and allows, brands, the government, the employers organisations and unions to work together to ensure a just outcome for the victims of Rana Plaza.”
Ten months after the worse industrial disaster to hit the garment industry, there can be no further excuses. Brands can show that they can be part of the solution if they pay up now!
10:35:12 local time INDIA
* Concern over factory and labour rule violations in textile units:
The conference of textile sector workers from the district organised by the CITU-affiliated Baniyan and General Workers Union here on Sunday expressed concern over the “large scale violations” of labour and factory rules in textile units as well as the “exploitation” of the labour force.
The Union also called for an inquiry into the misappropriations that had allegedly been occurring in a “section of textile units” in Tirupur knitwear cluster when it comes to remitting the employers’ contribution in the Provident Fund scheme.
“It has come to our notice that some of the employers deduct the workers’ PF contribution from their wages but have not been remitting the same along with the management’s share into the PF account. Only at the time when a worker claims the PF benefits, he/ she is coming to know that the remittances were not made properly,” C. Moorthy, general secretary of the Baniyan and General Workers Union, said.
The meeting observed that most of the textile unit owners were only interested in “increasing the profit margins with the welfare of the workers given the back seat”.
* Surat textile industry hopes for stability in AP:
Split of Andhra Pradesh has brought down sales by almost 70%
Once a major market for the Surat-based synthetic textile industry, the split of Andhra Pradesh (AP) has brought down sales to the southern state by almost 70 per cent.
As against an average annual turnover of roughly ~ 3,600 crore through textile trading between Surat and AP, the split has brought the numbers down to ~ 700-1,000 crore. Textile players in Surat hope the situation would improve by Pongal, which happens to be a major supply season in the southern state.
According to Surat-based textile traders, currently, they are not even doing 25 per cent of the normal business that they used to do with Andhra Pradesh. Surat textile industry’s daily business with Andhra Pradesh used to be ‘ 9-10 crore every day, which has now come to ‘2-3 crore due to the Telangana crisis. This, on an annual basis, tends to be around ‘ 3,600 crore which is now around ‘ 700-1,000 crore.
10:35:12 local time SRI LANKA
* Lankan exporters invited to utilize Pakistan’s GSP Plus with EU:
Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Major General Qasim Qureshi made an open invitation to Sri Lankan exporters to utilize the current Generalized System of Preferences Plus (GSP) scheme Pakistan enjoys with the European Union (EU) and expand trade between the two countries through the existing free trade agreement (FTA).
“Pakistan’s new GSP plus scheme with the EU is an opportunity for Sri Lankan exporters. For that we should jointly explore whatever is possible within the rules and regulations of the trade concession,” Qureshi said during a discussion held at the National Chamber of Commerce, recently.
Pakistan was granted the GSP plus status by the end of December 2013 till the year 2017. The GSP Plus status will allow almost 20 percent of Pakistani exports to enter the EU market at zero tariff and 70 percent at preferential rates, enabling Pakistan to export more than US $ 1 billion worth of products to the international markets.
It is said that only the textile industry would earn profits of more than Rs1 trillion per year.
10:05:12 local time PAKISTAN
* Despite GSP Plus status: textile exports yet to pick up momentum:
Pakistan’s textile exports have not yet picked up momentum despite the grant of Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) Plus status by the European Union, representatives of textile sector told Business Recorder.
Country’s textile exports remained $1.097 billion in January 2014 against $1.059 billion export in January last year, registering a meager 3.6 percent increase.
Textile exports of the country to the European Union (EU) are expected to surge by up to $1billion a year after the GSP status, effective from January 1, 2014; however it is yet to register any significant increase due to several challenges including shortage of energy.
According to officials, significant increase has been registered in orders from EU countries after January 2014 following the grant GSP Plus status, however, these orders are yet to be fulfilled due to the passage of a short span of time. In addition, energy shortage particularly power and gas remains a major impediment to increase the output. However, the industry is expecting a significant increase in exports from March and April 2014.
* Carpet exports in regional perspective:
There are good chances that the carpets American or European tourists are buying in Istanbul today were designed, weaved, washed and sent to the Turkish city straddling Asia and Europe by Shahid Hasan Sheikh’s Lahore Carpet Manufacturing Company.
If so, the wool used in them was procured from Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, New Zealand or Cholistan, washed in the cold water of River Kabul and handspun into yarn by Afghan women.
The colours used to dye the yarn might or might not be free of chemicals, depending on the buyers’ preference. In either case, at least two men or women in Punjab’s villages or somewhere in Afghanistan must have worked eight hours a day for nine to 10 months to produce each carpet before it was brought to his large factory on the outskirts of Lahore for washing and final quality check before it was shipped to the importer.
Turkey, known as carpet country, has replaced Germany as second largest buyer of Pakistan’s hand-knotted carpets after the United States because of 80pc decline in its domestic production owing to the rapid industrialisation and significant spike in tourist demand over last few years.
“Wages in carpet weaving are much lower than offered by the manufacturing industry. Hence, growth in the manufacturing often weans away carpet weavers,” says Shahid whose father started manufacturing carpets with 15 looms in 1949 and entered the export market in 1982.